Palin resigns from state oil and gas commission

Decision stems from Ruedrich flap, executive branch confidentiality law

Posted: Sunday, January 18, 2004

Sarah Palin, the outspoken chairwoman of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, is stepping down from her job, she said Friday.

Her decision was fueled partly by the flap over another commissioner accused of performing Republican Party work on state time and a state law that requires her to be silent about it, Palin said. The resignation is effective Tuesday.

It comes two months after former commissioner Randy Ruedrich, who is also the state Republican Party chairman, abruptly resigned from his $118,000-per-year job amid allegations he was performing GOP work on state time.

As ethics supervisor, Palin was outspoken in calling for Ruedrich to leave and had threatened to resign over the matter herself.

But since then, the state's executive branch ethics law has created a frustrating dilemma for her, she said.

She's refused to comment about the issue because of the confidentiality portion of the law and has declined media requests for AOGCC documents that would be open for inspection if there were no investigation.

Still, no one in state government has confirmed that the allegations are being investigated by the state attorney general's office.

"Going against what I believe in as a public servant is withholding information that I think Alaskans deserve to know," Palin told The Associated Press.

Even after she leaves office, Palin said she is barred from talking about the allegations against her former co-worker.

Ruedrich has not commented on the allegations since leaving office and has not returned several phone calls from The Associated Press.

Palin said she talked to administration officials as early as Monday about resigning, but she would not disclose details of the conversation. The administration did not ask for her resignation, she said.

She praised AOGCC staff for their roles as independent oil and gas regulators in a resignation letter and said she wants to contribute to the state in a positive manner.

"We let her letter speak for itself," said John Manly, spokesman for Gov. Frank Murkowski. "We're not going to comment any further."

In a press statement, Murkowski said he regretfully accepts the resignation.

"She has done a fine job and made a good contribution to the operations of the AOGCC," he said.

The Republican governor faced intense criticism in picking Palin and Ruedrich for the jobs last year from Democrats who called them patronage appointments.

Palin narrowly lost a Republican primary bid for lieutenant governor in 2002 and has been named as a possible challenger to U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who herself was appointed by her father the governor.

The controversy since taking office 11 months ago "was more than I bargained for in terms of what this job is," Palin said.

"My integrity and this agency's integrity has been questioned by some in the media and some in the public," Palin said. "The public needs to be assured politics don't influence a commission like this."

Palin said she will make several parting recommendations to the Murkowski administration. They include ways to ensure that future appointments appear "apolitical," and a curb on commission salaries, which she has said are too high.

As a public member of the three-person commission, Palin earned $122,400 annually.

Palin said she has no immediate plans to run in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate this year.

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